The Magic of Maine

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July 7, 2016 by John A

The season is short but the magic is eternal.  For anyone with a sailing ‘bucket list’ it would be considered very short-sighted if it did not include at least one, if not several, sailing adventures on the coast of Maine.

For those who like to explore, navigating the Maine coast offers endless intricate island archipeligoes, harbors, bays, estuaries, coves, sounds and throroughfares to challenge your navigational skills.  The endless scenic sights will give carpal tunnel syndrome to every mad Instagrammer’s shutter finger from overuse. 

Because we do our best to practice what we preach (and we do like to sail!) we always attempt to get our hands off the keyboard and onto the helm shortly after the annual Summer Sailstice celebration.  This year, 2016, we were able to do that with friends John Marsh and Anne Winton aboard their beautiful Tartan 40 ‘Asolare’ (Italian for 'the liesurely passing of time without purpose (or goofing off)) for a much too short cruise ‘down East’ in an attempt to capture just a bit of the ‘early season’ Maine magic.  We scored!

Stops included a start from the Orrs Bailey Yacht Club on Orrs Island Maine after their double-handed, 24-hour sail from Chatham to Casco Bay then sails and overnights to Christmas Cove, Monhegan Island, Criehaven/Matinicus, Seal Bay on Vinyl Haven to hide out from thunderstorms, a short lunch stop at Pond Island near Bucks Harbor, a windy reach down Eggemogin Reach, a ‘sail-by’ of the Wooden Boat school in Brooklin, an overnight in ‘Merchant’s Row’ with a dinner stop in Stonington on Deer Isle and a long, upwind sail back upwind to Christmas Cove.

Sailing the Maine coast from West to East is called sailing ‘down East’ because the prevailing South westerlies give you you a nice broad reach off your starboard quarter.  The irresistible pleasure of three solid days of spinnaker runs did put us in the upwind ‘penalty box’ for the return but, in the end, it was just too good to miss.

It was irresistible to just keep that spinny up while the wind was aft and the breeze cooperatieve.

In addition to idyllic sailing conditions the abundance of sailboat builders that have dotted the Maine coast for the past couple of centuries means its harbors are populated with a living history of sailing.  A short sailing season and long winter hibernation also mean sailboats don’t get too abused by the sun and whatever abuse they get is often repaired during the long ‘off season’.   Many boats sparkle in the spring, buffed with fresh coats of paint, varnish and polish.

One of many buffed boats on the coast of Maine - a Pisces 21 built by Classic Boat Shop.

The coast line is only about 250 miles ‘as the crow flies’ from New Hampshire to Canada but the intricate nature of the shore and the 6200 offshore islands add up to an actual coastline longer than California’s of about 3500 miles and 5500 miles if you include the islands - at least that's what Google research suggests. Either way it's enough coastline to keep you busy for much more than one season. 


The state of Maine has a ‘tagline’ of ‘Vacationland’ but don’t believe these piles of fishing gear are just decoration for cruising tourists.  The lobsterman know it as a place of hard but rewarding work.


Working lobster boats are part of the scenery and providers of many of your best meals when cruising.


Hospitality extends beyond mortal life as this gravestone in Matinicus offered a 'handle' of Glen Livet complete with cups for visitors.


When you come across a rock sculpture garden you have to add your own.  Does make you wonder why humans do this?


The navigator should have good charts and a Summer Sailstice t-shirt.


If you don’t get to experience a foggy day in Maine you’ll probably feel ripped off – it’s just part of the scenery.


Matinicus has a rough and tumble reputation but we think it's just to keep it from becoming overcrowded.  Very much worth a visit.


We have to admit that after years of being in California we’ve become somewhat annoying food snobs.  However, the ‘food movement’ is everywhere and Maine’s lobster, organic gardens, craft brews mix well with the traditional local fare. 


Bert and I’ are probably the most famous Maine humorists but that doesn’t mean there aren’t quite a few others with a sense of humor lurking amongst the fishing fleets.


Maine is famous for its rocky coastline but beaches do exist.  However, unless you’re a ‘polar bear’ club member the refreshing, 58-60 degree water isn’t likely to entice most people in for a swim.


The lure of downwind is worth the return but be careful not to get carried away. 


You can only row so far.  Eventually you have to get out and walk.



Sailing back ‘up West’ takes a little grit but, if you leave some time for it, there’s plenty to enjoy on the return - like blue skies, sunshine and brisk breezes.

Surveying all the photos that come in from participants in the annual Summer Sailstice weekend we see plenty of places we'd like go for the post event sail. Maine was perfect and a spectacular place to sail but, we all know, wherever you are in the world, it all improves if you're on a sailboat.  

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